Men, We Need You to Do Better
Yes, the 10 questions are coming. But first I want to tell you a story about a friend. She is a community leader, a divorced mother, and a deeply kind, uplifting person. It’s impossible not to feel good in her presence.
Recently she was having some work done on her house. We talked by phone not long afterward, and she told me, laughing, about the good-looking men who were doing the work. She was surprised and delighted to find that one of them had left a note behind, apologizing if he seemed unprofessional and offering his phone number in case she’d like to talk. “Call him!” I urged, laughing along with her. The whole situation sounded like the kind of fun she deserved after navigating the separation from her long-time partner.
She called him and it only took her a little while to realize that they didn’t have much in common. They had a friendly conversation, and she politely declined getting together for dinner. And this is the point at which the story stops being light-hearted and fun. He kept calling and texting, insisting he take her for dinner. Her polite “no” became more pointed and direct. She stopped responding altogether. Still he persisted. The text messages continued. The next time I heard from her, she was afraid for her safety, especially considering that this man knew where she lived. And, like pretty much all women I know, she had turned to questioning herself. Had she been too flirty? Too nice? Had she taken an unnecessary risk by calling him in the first place?
I wish this story were unique, but I know it’s not. I have my own version of it, and so many women I know do too. To paraphrase the writer Margaret Atwood, “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.” Our missteps or assumptions of good intentions can all too easily backfire on us, yet in no way do I see this as my friend’s fault.
According to the CDC, one out of every four women in the U.S. has been a victim of rape or an attempted rape. One out of three has experienced sexual harassment. And half of all women have experienced sexual violence of some form. Pretty much every female friend of mine has had some kind experience ranging from, at best, unwanted sexual advances, to at worst, brutal…